Arts in the Heart Showcases Old Favorites and New Vendors
Augusta’s annual Arts in the Heart Festival is growing, but not at the expense of its hometown roots.
“We’re always expanding,” said Executive Director Brenda Durant, “but not so greatly that it hinders anyone’s ability to enjoy it. We never want to give away that hometown feel. We don’t want anyone in Augusta to think that it’s not an Augusta festival.”
The 38th annual Arts in the Heart takes place Sept. 14-16 in downtown Augusta and, as always, features a wide variety of arts and crafts, family fun, music and shows and, of course, food with an international flavor. The fun starts at 5 p.m. Friday and ends at 7 p.m. Sunday, featuring both old favorites and new events.
“I think it’s a balance of always changing things a bit but not changing it completely,” Durant said.
One new feature this year will be buskers — street performers who pop up unannounced in various locations. Many of them are local.
“Throughout the weekend they’ll pop up and perform,” said Christina Berkshire, administrative manager for Arts in the Heart. “It’s something to keep it lively the whole weekend and give it a little bit of magic.”
The five stages located throughout downtown, though, will have scheduled performances with times of the events posted at the locations.
The Global Stage, located at Augusta Common, features a variety of dance numbers during the day and bands in the evening and concludes on Sunday with a performance of the Man from LaMancha by the Fort Gordon Dinner Theater group.
The Community Stage, on Ninth Street, will feature bands playing a wide variety of music styles.
The Family Stage, across from the Miller Theater, hosts a variety of entertainment groups, including the Evans High School musical theater group, hip-hop belly dancers and, on Saturday night, a fire dance performance.
Jazz enthusiasts will enjoy the Jazz Stage on Eighth Street. The Troubadour Stage, inside the Doris Building, features poetry and spoken word performances.
Fine arts booths will be set up in three themed zones. The 700 block of Broad Street will have artists who connect more easily with families and are a bit more budget-friendly. The 800 block, the noisiest and most raucous area, will feature the hip and funky collections. And the 900 block, which tends to be quieter, will feature the artists who deal in the more upscale arts. Both old favorites and new vendors will have displays.
“You don’t get to see this much handcrafted artwork all in one place,” said Pax Bobrow, project manager for Arts in the Heart. “If you’re looking for that truly one-of-a-kind artwork, jewelry, pottery, it’s there.”
Not only is the art unique, but the booths are staffed by the people who make the art, giving visitors a unique perspective on how it’s made that isn’t available when buying items in a store or online.
Bobrow said there are 166 vendors this year, the most ever.
“We are chock-a-block full,” she said. “There’s not an empty block anywhere.”
Arts in the Heart continues its unique international atmosphere with food booths featuring items from 26 countries. Although Germany won’t be represented this year, booths from Yemen and France have been added. All of the food is authentic cuisine representative of the countries.
“We do a lot of research to make sure it’s authentic,” Durant said.
In addition to the food, there are also international dances. This year, Guam will teach the dancing.
Arts in the Heart offers something for all ages, both as consumers and as participants. The Family Area, near the Imperial Theatre, features booths with items for sale made by local youngsters.
This year, the Miller Theater will give tours during the festival. Four years ago, it also gave tours of the venue that showed the disrepair it had fallen into. Now, visitors can see how it has been transformed into a showcase theater.
Arts in the Heart drew 90,000 visitors last year, both from the CSRA and from a broader area.
“It’s like an annual reunion downtown,” Durant said. “You see classmates, family, friends together. I like to pause at the gate and take a look at the people walking in. This event looks like Augusta.”